Digital Learning

Over the past few months, crusading Idaho state
supe Tom Luna has shepherded a flock of forward-thinking and cost-saving
reforms—including adoption of merit pay and a rollback of tenure and
collective-bargaining rights. Yet amid Luna’s bold reforms hides one black
sheep. If legislators agree in January, Idaho will become the first state to
mandate that all high schoolers take at least two courses online. (Currently,
Michigan and Alabama require students to each take one online course.)

eat your vegetables photo

You will take your online class. And you'll like it.
Photo by Justus Hayes

one of these classes must be “asynchronous”—think more “correspondence course”
and less “virtual classroom.” Gadfly is a firm believer in the potential of digital
learning to expand the reach of fantastic teachers, to individualize
instruction, and to allow for more choice in public education. But the goal
should be to expand access to digital learning, not to require kids...

Guest Blogger

?The server ate my homework.'' *

? student excuse in Munster, IN

Out With Textbooks, in With Laptops for an Indiana School District New York Times

22 Percent

Percentage increase in the proportion of new, experienced teachers hired for hard-to-staff schools between 2007 and 2009.

Pay-for-performance program pays off for Denver Public Schools Denver Top News Examiner

* This quote does not necessarily represent the views of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

The Education Gadfly

Janie and Daniela go two-for-two. This week they unpack Duncan's teacher-prep plan, quality control in digital learning, and the parallels between football and education. Amber boots out ineffective teachers and Chris calls out of turn.


The Education Gadfly

Mike and Rick raise the bar this week, discussing high achievers, Duncan's digital promise, and the textbook-company oligarchy. (Oh, and Rick confesses he has a reform-crush on L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa). Amber tackles minority-teacher retention and Chris dives head first into an NCAA lawsuit.


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Yesterday, the New York Times began a series on technology and education (?Grading the Digital School?) on a decidedly downbeat note: the huge investment in digital technology ? nearly $2 billion a year in software alone, according to the paper -- may not be improving student performance.? [pullquote]?We've jumped on bandwagons for different eras without knowing fully what we're doing. This might just be the new bandwagon.?[/pullquote]

The Arizona school district that reporter Matt Richtel uses to illustrate the lengthy discussion (a front-page story in the Times' Sunday print edition) is the 18,000 student, K-8 Kyrene School District, which has invested $33 million in its digital system since 2005. ??Hope and enthusiasm are soaring,? writes Richtel, ?but not test scores.?

Despite the headlong rush to digitize our schools, there is, as Larry Cuban tells Richtel, ?insufficient evidence to spend that kind of money. Period, period, period.? ?Cuban also pooh-pooh's the ?student engagement? argument for computers. ?There is very little valid and reliable research that shows the engagement causes or leads to higher academic achievement,? he says.

Even Kyrene Superintendent David Schauer has his doubts, telling Richtel, ?We've jumped on bandwagons for different eras without knowing fully...

Guest Blogger

Which of the five states competing to be America's next Education Reform Idol did the most to advance charter schools and private-school choice during the 2011 legislative session? Consider our analysis below, and attend our event Thursday morning (8:30-10:00AM) to see key players in all five states defend their records in front of a panel of ed-reform celebrity judges?Jeanne Allen, Richard Lee Colvin, and Bruno Manno. And click here to cast your vote for Education Reform Idol.


Florida passed three major choice initiatives this year: A charter-school bill that makes it easier for high-performing charters to expand, a pair of voucher programs for students with disabilities and students in low-performing schools, and a digital-learning bill. The digital-learning bill is especially impressive, allowing students to attend publicly funded digital charters as well as requiring districts to offer part- and full-time digital options in grades K-12.


Illinois's Charter School Quality Act allows charter schools to be approved by an independent commission instead of individual school districts. This is expected to be a boon for many rural and...